Guess what? I’m prejudiced.
Don’t worry about keeping the secret. It’s pretty obvious.
Actually, if you want to know the truth, you are too. I hope you’re not proud of that. That would be foolish indeed. But I don’t know what else to tell you. We’re all created naturally prejudiced about some things, and we’ll all hold particular opinions that aren’t held by others. That’s the way God designed it, as far as I can tell. I don’t like it, but I have to live with it. Not everyone is going to agree with me and I can’t make them. And you know, deep down, I don’t really want them all to agree. What would the fun of that be? I don’t know if you’re like me, but I’d probably beat myself up if I ever met myself on the street.
My prejudice for hard-hitting, pain-induced fiction, and against simple, plot-driven novels is pretty deep-seated. My assumption is that these aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive groups, but that like everything in life, there is a continuum, a broad spectrum between serious/deep and entertaining/shallow. Just because something is serious doesn’t mean it’s deep and just because something is entertaining doesn’t mean it’s shallow. But problems arise when we take things out of context to justify out own wrong-headed notions and assumptions.
For our purposes, the assumption that Chistian fiction is going through some growing pains is basic, central to our discussion and productivity. It’s our foundation on which to build. Now we can build destructive arguments on this foundation about the need for change and the dire situation of anti-intellectual, sophmoric fiction, or we can build constructive arguments about the goals and the hope writers, editors, and publishers share. We can take the hard-nosed, unkind approach, or we can take the compassionate approach and couch our statements in loving, respectful terms. I hope it’s the latter. I want to honor and hold up the writers who have been fighting the fight in the real world of CBA for more years than we’ve known the fight existed. But I also want to encourage us forward, ever further into the potentially unsettling expansion that’s beginning to come to the fore. I want to be wise, but I also want to be, as a writer friend today put it to me, aware of the simple beauty all around us, in the innocence of children and the smiles of good friends. I want to share something of value and substance with all of you. I don’t want my assumptions to intrude on your education and enjoyment.
And I’d be willing to give up this fight for expanding Christian fiction in an instant if it meant getting to know the writers who had felt hurt, wounded, isolated, singled-out by my comments, as though my desire for something different constituted a failure on their part. I’ve never said the absence of my kind of fiction is a failure of authors. But I’ve implied it, even as I was blaming readers, booksellers, and whoever else might bear some blame. And just as the terms “renewing” and “restoring” in the hymn “Renew Thy Church, Her Ministries Restore” might imply that the church fails and falls away from its mission at times (number 572 in your hymnal), there is simply no way to couch my assumption in softer terms. Like a prostitute trying to explain to her church what she does for a living, there’s just no nice way to put it. If you’re living right, your motive isn’t to harm, but to explain. I would hope that’s our motivation here: to explain what we see. And to correct faulty assumptions through dialog and respectful discussion, including my own.
The words of this hymn speak to me, soothing my anger, reviving and reassuring my ache to be heard:
“Renew Thy church, her ministries restore: Both to serve and adore, Make her again as salt throughout the land, And as light from a stand. ‘Mid somber shadows of the night, Where greed and hatred spread their blight, O send us forth with power endued: Help us, Lord, be renewed! Teach us to pray, for Thou are ever near; Thy still voice let us hear. Our souls are restless til they rest in Thee: This our glad destiny. Before Thy presence keep us still, That we may find for us Thy will, And seek Thy guidance every day: Teach us, Lord, how to pray!”
We need to be winsome in our manner. Respectful in our delivery. Careful in our words. Artful in our understanding. We’re dealing with issues we can’t understand in full. We need to respect our boundaries and not try to speak where we don’t have experience. And we need to love.
“Teach us to love, with strength of heart and mind, Everyone, all mankind. Break down old walls of prejudice and hate; Leave us not to our fate. As Thou hast loved and given Thy life, To end hostility and strife, O share Thy grace from heaven above: Teach us, Lord, how to love!”
“Thou hast lost thy first love…” —Revelation 2:4.
It’s bound to happen in an industry as big and established as CBA: some will lose their way. But should we condemn and judge? Should we return evil for evil? Should we presume to correct where we have not tread? What good is criticism without constructiveness?
Let’s not be guilty of self-righteousness in our struggle to be heard. This is a revolution, first of love, and then of grace. These are our weapons to break down old walls, not the evil and dissention that’s already destroyed enough. I would ask us all to remember that the same measure of grace we freely give will be given to us in the world to come. We can long and pray for acceptance of our views, but we can’t expect to be heard if we aren’t listening ourselves.
So as you go out from here to write your words and champion your cause, please remember forbearance. Don’t damage the people you’re trying to influence.
In fact, they’re more like you than you know.
We’re going to have some interviews in the coming days with some writers who have more experience in this area of publishing CBA fiction than most. I think some of their insights will surprise you. I’m hoping that through their words, you might see more of the vision for open dialog I’m hoping to cultivate on this blog. Thanks to all of you for your open minds, your dedication to the call, and the hope for redemption of all the sufferings you carry with you in your desire to create.